On our honeymoon over 40 years ago, we went to Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong (when it was still in British hands) and Thailand. Talk about cultural immersion right from the beginning! We learned quickly that we loved all that cultural immersion, and we love sharing our tips and experiences.
Through the years, we've learned that hobbies and "curiosities" can help you connect in different ways to cultures when you travel. Curiosities? What do you mean curiosities...? Well, here's a little story about Travels With the Monkey... Though we always recommend traveling light, we found ourselves carrying around a 15 inch tall, white stuffed toy gorilla through Nepal and Tibet. It proved to be an incredible ice-breaker with the children we met.... and even with the adults! We often go birdwatching in remote areas.
When you find yourself in a little village, the children all want to look through your binoculars... even if they're little Monks in Bhutan! Don't be shy and shoo them away.... interact. It will make your trip better! Hobbies will take you to new places and help you meet people in new countries. We love Antique Airplanes. We've even got that website about them. Visiting aviation museums and air shows in foreign countries, we find people with common interests who are more than willing to talk to us...
Once you get people talking about your common hobby or interest, you'll find that you end up learning more about the culture and the history of their country... if you just let yourself. Even your job can be an ice-breaker. In Myanmar we met a dentist. Since I'm a dental hygienist, I asked if it was OK to take a photo of his sign... He wanted us to take photos of his whole place, and we ended up having tea and a long talk.
Part of why we travel is for those cultural experiences. We have as our mission statement and belief that travel promotes understanding and understanding promotes peace... so go ahead... travel!
Happy travels, Judy and Mark